WENATCHEE — When The Windmill Restaurant looked to open its doors Wednesday in defiance of state orders, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Eyman was there as a cheerleader.
The longtime activist said he visited Wenatchee to support The Windmill and residents of Chelan and Douglas counties who recently filed lawsuits against Gov. Jay Inslee, demanding he end his COVID-19 state of emergency order.
“There’s kind of this confluence of awfulness that’s happening there in Wenatchee, but there’s also this confluence of optimism that there’s citizens that fight back,” Eyman said.
Eyman streamed the event on Facebook Live outside The Windmill at 1501 N. Wenatchee Ave. He was joined by roughly two dozen people, many of whom displayed signs or flags and were greeted by honks from passing motorists.
In a statement posted to Facebook Wednesday, The Windmill did not attach itself to the rally and wrote that opening the restaurant was not a political statement for or against any government officials.
“We would like to be 100% clear with everyone whether or not you agree with our decision or not, that us opening is not about politics or in support of any government official,” the post said. “It’s a matter of opening our doors to those who support us or ultimately we will lose our restaurant forever.”
The reopening was short lived. The Windmill posted about 5:50 p.m. that the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board threatened to revoke its license.
“We have been forced to close,” The Windmill wrote. “We will be back and we are fighting back! This is not American, we have a right to work. Operating a restaurant should not be illegal.”
The Windmill could have exposed itself to discipline from state agencies by opening. On Tuesday, Inslee gave the Department of Labor & Industries the authority to cite businesses for being open or for operating in a way that is purposely defying his phased-in approach to reopening the state. Businesses could be fined $10,000 or more.
“We’re all in this together, and most businesses are doing the right thing for our state and our communities. Unfortunately, there are some that are choosing not to,” said L&I Director Joel Sacks in a news release. “The coronavirus is a known workplace hazard and businesses must follow the requirements to keep their workers and the public safe.”
Eyman was critical of Inslee’s reopening strategy.
“Doing it at the beginning made sense to a lot of people but once he stopped asking the Legislature for permission and just started doing things unilaterally without any legislative authorization, I just thought he crossed the line into, if not unconstitutionality, then completely non-representative democracy decision making,” Eyman said. He added, “And right now the people are frustrated, they’ve got one arrogant, bumbling, incompetent governor that seems to enjoy the fact that he’s on this big power trip. Not that I feel strongly about it.”
Eyman capped his rally by presenting Wenatchee resident Ben Holton an award for “Activist of the Year” on behalf of activist group, Permanent Offense. Holton helped organize the #letusfish protests sparked by a statewide ban on fishing. The ban was lifted the day after protests across the state on April 26.